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A Real-World Business Process Model Part 1

Using the WebLogic Platform for order management

When processes are modeled well and don't change, existing IT systems work well. However, real business changes all the time and processes are becoming more complex especially as the Internet is able to easily link internal and external systems.

Business process management (BPM) can help in managing this complex and ever changing process. The concept of manipulating data, which IT systems do efficiently today, can be extended to business processes. Businesses can use BPM systems, using workflow-type techniques, to control existing applications, Web services, and human processes together, or to construct or deconstruct processes or sub-processes.

Using business process modeling, we can model and also measure the effectiveness of existing business processes. This helps us understand how the business currently operates and allows the business to identify the improvements needed. It also gives us the ability to test the suggested improvements before implementing them to see if they will provide the desired results. Figure 1 shows how you can implement BPM in your business. First you analyze and define the process model. These business processes can be built and deployed through a process engine. Then, you can monitor the business process.

In this series we will see how WebLogic Integration provides a BPM solution. We will go through a real world example involving order management to show how Integration can be used to model, execute, and monitor a business process

PD4J and WebLogic Integration
WebLogic Integration provides a robust and integrated BPM solution. Process modeling in WebLogic Workshop is based on Process Definition for Java (PD4J). Different organizations are working towards different specifications in BPM - the Java Community Process (JCP) is working on Process Definition for Java (PD4J), OASIS on Business Process Execution Language for Web Service (WSBPEL or BPEL). PD4J has been proposed in JSR 207 and builds on the Java Language Metadata technology in JSR 175. The latter standard provides an easy-to-use syntax for describing a business process at the source-code level for the J2EE platform. The intention of JSR 207 is to explore and standardize the relationship between process languages like BPEL and the Java language and J2EE platform.

As a major next step to defining this Java process standard, BEA and IBM have closely collaborated to create a new specification called BPELJ, which has also been submitted to the JSR 207 working group. BPELJ is a combination of BPEL and Java. It allows these two languages to be used together to build complete business process applications. By enabling BPEL and Java to work together, BPELJ leverages what each does best. BPELJ is implemented via extensions to the BPEL language; therefore any BPEL process can be executed through BPELJ. By standardizing these extensions, business processes will be truly portable and interoperable across the J2EE platform.

BEA is the lead for JSR 207 and a coauthor of both BPEL and BPELJ. In addition to BPEL capabilities, BEA will also provide full support for BPELJ in the next major release of WebLogic Integration. It will provide automatic and seamless migration experience from processes written in PD4J to BPELJ.

Key Components to Build BPM in WebLogic Integration
WebLogic Integration builds the BPM solution in three stages:

  1. Modeling of the process
  2. Execution or automation of the process, which is basically the build and deploy process
  3. Analysis of the process which includes monitoring of the process
For process modeling, WebLogic Integration uses WebLogic Workshop, which has graphical tools to build, view, and change business process models in both the design and source views in the WebLogic Workshop environment. Features of the modeling tool provide synchronous and asynchronous Web services, branching, nesting, looping, parallelism, grouping, and exception handling.

The business process also integrates with the WebLogic Control Framework, which supports database, file, messaging, service broker, and human interaction. The Control Framework, which WebLogic Workshop provides, is a way to encapsulate business logic and to access enterprise resources such as databases, message queues, and timers, and to expose them as Web services. Using the Control Framework you can combine data and business logic from different resources and use them in a business process.

For XML-to-Java transformation, you'll use XMLBeans. XMLBeans are technology used throughout WebLogic Workshop; it provides very easy translation between XML data and Java types. XMLBeans have many advantages,without losing access to original XML structure, they provide a Java object-based view of XML data. The XML's integrity as a document is not lost with XMLBeans. They handle the entire XML document instance as a whole instead of taking XML apart like other APIs. We will see in Workshop how when an xsd file is imported to a schemas folder, XMLBeans are created and are available to your business process.

For XML2XML, Java2XML, and non-XML2non-XML mapping you'll use the XQuery Transformation Mapper. XQuery Maps provide a way for you to reshape the XML messages that Web services send or receive.

WebLogic Integration takes care of process automation for the process designed in WebLogic Workshop. Process building is accomplished through auto-generation of J2EE code. Source code is created automatically when you design business processes using the graphical tools in WebLogic Workshop, which stores the process definition in accordance with PD4J. It is called a JPD (Process Definition for Java) file. You can also edit Java code in the source view. WebLogic Server is used to build and deploy the business process. WebLogic Workshop has a test browser that helps to test the process. You can execute stateful processes, which are processes that maintain state information and stateless processes, which are processes without state information as well as synchronous and asynchronous processes. A WSDL can be generated for a business process and therefore enable it to be invoked as a Web service.

Process analysis provides ongoing monitoring and collects statistical data in real time. This is very important in BPM. Service-level agreement (SLA) status monitoring and generating reports of historical process information are provided by the BPM tool. You can use the WebLogic Integration console to monitor the process.

A Real World Example
WebLogic Workshop can be used to model a real-world business process. It has a design view that has process nodes and control palettes. Through these you can add Web services, client requests, decision nodes, and Java controls to mimic a real world process. As you add these components, Workshop generates, in a separate tab, the source code and annotations to reflect the process logic using the PD4J specification. After modeling this business process, you can test it by executing it within Workshop.

In this series of articles, we will look at a real business process - a Change Order Request within the Order Management business process for a vendor. We will see how we can build this "real world business process" in WebLogic Workshop using the graphical interface.

The scenario we are looking at here is a PC reseller selling configure-to-order PCs. A consumer who buys through this reseller wants to upgrade the disk drive in the PC he has ordered. This results in a change request made by the reseller on the manufacturer. The reseller places a request to change the product configuration information, which is to upgrade a disk drive for the PC of a previously placed order.

The order change process has many process steps and decision points. The first process step is the receipt of the order change request from the reseller in the form of an XML. This XML uses the RosettaNet Partner Interface Processes (PIPs), for an order change. The RosettaNet PIP is part of the RosettaNet Implementation Framework and is a standardized electronic business transaction between trading partners. Consistency in transaction formats is extremely important to decrease time to implement transactions between trading partners, therefore each PIP comes with a message guideline and XML document-type definition (DTD).

As the Change Order has a new configuration for an upgraded disk drive, we need to check whether this configuration is valid for the PC. The business process uses a Web service to check the validity of the configuration. If this upgraded disk drive cannot be ordered with this PC, the configuration is not valid and the process ends. If the configuration is valid, then the business process goes to the next step.

The next step is to check with the factory floor the status of the original order. This will help to track where the PC is in the assembly process. The status will let you know if it is at a point in the assembly where a disk drive can be added, which means the order is changeable, or it may be at the shipping dock, where the order is not changeable.The status is stored in a database. In the process step a database control needs to be invoked to check the Order Status. If this order cannot be "changed" the process ends. If the order can be "changed" the change is performed in the ERP-based "system" or it can be written out to a file that can be uploaded to an ERP system. Figure 2 shows the change order request process steps. We will use these steps in WebLogic Workshop to create the business process.

Steps to Create a Business Process
First, you need to create an application. We can call this application orderChange. In this application we need to create a new process called orderChange.jpd. To start the process we need to add a ClientRequest received. Next we will add the Web service validate. Then we need to decide whether or not the configuration is valid; therefore, we will add a decision node. To check the order status, add the order status database control. Again, we have to decide if the order status allows us to proceed, therefore, we will add another decision node. The last part of the process is to either write this change to a file control, which can then be uploaded to an SAP order fulfillment system, or written directly to SAP. The last step is to conclude the process.

Summary
We will go through the details of each step in the next articles in this series. The second article will cover the creation of the process, the client request and addition of the Web service. The third article will look at the addition of the decision points and database control. The fourth article will cover writing to a file control and the ending of process. We will see how we can test the business process in the test browser and how the process can be monitored in the last article.

References

  • BPEL and BPELJ: dev2dev.bea.com
  • Keen, Peter. "Business Process Management". www.infoconomy.com
  • More Stories By Anjali Anagol-Subbarao

    Anjali Anagol-Subbarao works in HP's IT organization as an IT architect. She has 12 years of IT experience, the last five in Web services. Her book on J2EE Web services on BEA WebLogic was published in October 2004.

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